The days stretched on before me at that time, my dark thoughts kept at bay by the simple surroundings. Yet I could feel them just outside of the clean sunlight and sweet smelling grass of the plains, like I was only caught in a moment of time, between two clicks of a clock, and everything about the old nightmare would resume once the second click tolled. It hung like a guillotine, perhaps even literally so, because of who I was, and the obvious hatred the farmers held for what I used to be. I had seen it in their faces as they listened to Fordrellon, imagined the two of us crossing swords again.
Despite this, some of the peace of that place began to leak in — although it was bitter, as I wondered how long I could make it last.
There was the day a fleeting shadow of a turkey vulture crossed the fields, and I froze, my instinct telling me it was the wing-shadow of a great, bronze drake. It seemed like hours before the episode of remembered terror passed, and someone was urging me to my feet, offering me a ladle of cool water for what she had assumed had been heat stroke. I was embarrassed, but Saul’s wife was only kind, calling me ‘sweet thing’ and ‘dear one’ as she fussed over me, like she was the mother I never knew.
The truth was that this nurturing unsettled me more than the shadow had, and I wished I could dive back into anonymity as only Chard, the unknown Wanderer, not Chard, resident of the Saul farmstead and treated as kin; I wished it was only me and the wide world of a war-torn plain again, with no one to see it but the sun and the meadowlarks. Those were things that made sense to me: how the meadowlarks would turn to bones and the sun to winter’s chill wind. They were natural things, like the forests Jalinde had once so loved.
These human farmers were unpredictable in comparison. I came across the uncomfortable thought that they treated Chard differently than Sirith because Chard was not part akor’mar; at the same time, I thought it might also be that Chard attempted to be helpful, while Sirith was steeped in his own resentment.
I had changed, I knew, but maybe not enough to be safe. Old habits die hard, and I do not know how long I can continue to live this lie.